Salah and Núñez seal Community Shield glory as Liverpool crush Manchester City

Auguring well for the 2022-3 season, Liverpool will be the happiest as Jürgen Klopp’s side already look like a classy outfit ready for serious contention.

Manchester City don’t. Pep Guardiola was unconcerned about losing this first Community Shield organized in July, but perhaps he will be scrutinized how Erling Haaland was almost anonymous throughout, as this, despite the manager’s protests after the defeat, altered the rhythm of the team.

The No 9’s only moment came when he ignited the sequence that led to Julian Álvarez’s equalizer – and his first in City colors – and finished with the kind of point-blank miss he can chase, blazing when it was easier to score.

At the final whistle, Liverpool had the excellent Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah on the scoreboard plus the dynamic Darwin Núñez, who scored the third and created the Egyptian’s penalty.

Salah, in a raucous atmosphere at a packed King Power Stadium, was the effervescent, effervescent star of the first half. An initial option was to sell a dummy and shoot – it only found the side-netting – but City had a warning they ignored as, too often, the No.11 was allowed to wreak havoc.

Seven minutes had already passed when Guardiola unleashed a first move of the term: João Cancelo was the victim to return to goal instead of finding Jack Grealish with an escape down the left.

Mohamed Salah celebrates after putting Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

City were flooding in, so when Kevin De Bruyne forced a corner and the same player took the short throw and crossed, Nathan Aké was finally able to threaten Adrián’s goal though he didn’t be able to connect

The latter was Guardiola’s surprise selection for the day – the Catalan usually has one – as the Dutchman, who was almost sold to Chelsea, was preferred to John Stones. Aké, however, was part of a backline that struggled to slow down Liverpool.

One of the prime examples of Salah’s freedom came when he controlled and slotted the ball inside Alexander-Arnold. The right-back, seeing Andy Robertson advancing towards the far post, executed a chip to the Scot that should have finished.

All the noise emanated from the red section of the venue, all the action of those who had the same color. So when Alexander-Arnold struck there was little surprise. Salah, again, was found, this time by Thiago Alcântara. And again, the right-back was waiting for him to his left: Salah played the ball to him and a deflected shot went past Ederson on Aké’s forehead.

Stung by City, De Bruyne soon got on board with a threading pass from Riyad Mahrez, but the Belgian missed. Haaland, at this point, was a non-factor, limited to the odd touch and zero chances. He eventually had two of the latter. After packing Robertson on the wing, he stopped Adrián but then, in the same passage, looked awkward on one foot as he headed in a left-footed cross when the angle was made to the right.

City rallied as the interval approached, closing the 45 minutes as they would have liked: controlling the ball and territory near the Liverpool goal. But, no equal came – a simple Mahrez pea roll for Adrián to collect an apt picture from his lack of teeth.

Trent Alexander-Arnold opens the scoring. Photograph: Tony Obrien/Reuters

When the squads were named, Haaland had been the only summer signing in the XI, meaning that Kalvin Phillips and Alvarez, Guardiola’s other new additions, were substitutes for City as, for the Champions League FA Cup, they were Klopp’s new men: Núñez and Fabio Carvalho.

With each manager making no changes for the second half, Liverpool soon brought the threat back. From a free-kick on the left, Robertson dropped the ball into the City box before Aké, leaping, headed it home. The menacing Alexander-Arnold then ran into Ederson and was pushed back near the six-yard box, Robertson crashed in a cross, and Jordan Henderson looked to cut in right before returning to traffic.

Guardiola has now moved by making two changes – the ineffective Haaland could have been one, but he slipped out when Grealish and Mahrez were stuck, Phil Foden and Alvarez coming on. At this point, Roberto Firmino was also sacrificed – by Klopp – for Núñez, so the country’s two main rivals now had their new striker in action.

What was surprising was how static City were with Haaland in the ranks – Guardiola, at least this evening, has lost the fluid attacking play that has been so brilliant and successful for City due to the Norwegian’s reluctance to abandon the striker.

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That was until Alvarez’s leveller, when Haaland did just that: find space and pass to De Bruyne. Foden sent his cross to Adrián and, as the striker challenged the keeper, the ball curled to Alvarez, who held on, after a lengthy offside check.

But now came a second VAR investigation – Craig Pawson was sent to the pitchside monitor and ruled that Rúben Dias handled Nunez’s header. Salah coolly scored the penalty before Núñez sealed the win in stoppage time.

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